Saturday, June 25, 2016
As noted for the previous night, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Hirooki Goto are out with injuries, giving Katsuyori Shibata and Yuji Nagata forfeit wins tonight.
During his entrance through the crowd Iizuka tries to attack the commentator but Manabu Nakanishi, who is also on commentary, makes the save. Once that kerfuffle is over, Captain New Japan takes a beating in the ring. That isn’t surprising at all. This goes on for a bit and the tag goes to KUSHIDA. I’ve always really enjoyed KUSHIDA and he’s pretty fun here. Even though he’s doing so well, perpetual loser Captain New Japan wants the tag back in. He gets in and does pretty well, hitting YOSHI-HASHI with an exploder. Iizuka tries to use his iron claw thing but the referee stops him. That opens the door for YOSHI-HASHI to use his cane along with a backstabber as they steal a win.
It was better than what we saw on night seven. KUSHIDA was the difference maker. This killed time to make up for the injuries.
After the match, Iizuka and TOSHI-HASHI continue the attack, hitting both KUSHIDA and the Captain with the Iron Claw. Kazushi Sakuraba hops on the apron, removes his arm sling and backs them off.
There is a look in Devitt’s eyes that hasn’t been seen throughout this tournament. I also find this interesting because both guys might use interference, which Devitt hasn’t faced. Once he’s overpowered, he gets Fale to distract Smith but it backfires. He continues to use his power, while Devitt is cunning enough to swing the momentum and try to wear Davey down. Davey goes back to big strikes but when he tries the powerslam, Devitt knocks over the referee. Fale comes in for the attack, bringing Taka Michinoku in to stop him. That obviously fails so Davey goes after Fale on his own only for Devitt to hit him with a chair. Devitt hits the double stomp onto the chair again, but falls to 0-3 in pin attempts after it. Both guys counter each other’s finishers. Fale is knocked off the apron and Davey hits a tiger suplex that I swear gets a three count. Devitt does get the shoulder up in time but can’t after a sitout powerbomb.
And just like that, Smith is leading his block. A fine match here. They didn’t overdo the interference and Devitt needing help against someone of Smith’s size made sense. Like Devitt’s entire tournament, this was good, but not great.
Hey, it’s future Bullet Club buddies. Takahashi resorts to biting early on, which his valets seem to like. By the way, these may have been the best looking ladies he’s come out with so far. When Anderson turns things around, he chooses to pose for the ladies in a sexual manner. They seem to have each other well scouted, avoiding big moves and neither gains a clear upper hand. Anderson, like his namesake, busts out a sweet spinebuster. After a while, both men try their finishes but it is Anderson who connects on the Gun Stun for the two points.
This never clicked for me. They tried but it just wasn’t working. I did like the finishing sequence of near finishers though. Also, Yujiro’s girls bump up the score a bit.
Even though Archer is clearly the bigger man, Kojima shows no fear. He ferociously comes at Archer, trying to stay alive in the standings but gets tossed for his troubles. Archer works the bad shoulder of Kojima. It comes into play when it, coupled with Archer’s size, prevents him from lifting Archer. Kojima just says fuck it and lays into Archer with his trademark string of chops. The crowd was dead for the last match but they have come alive here. Archer stops the string of offense by slamming Kojima off the top. Wise enough to avoid trying to lift him again, Kojima lays out Archer with a DDT on the apron. Back inside, Kojima fights off a Chokeslam once but can’t do it a second time, though he kicks out. Archer continues to pile on the offense but Kojima won’t stay down. He fights back and hits a lariat to the back of the head. Satoshi calls for one more but Archer just falls out before he can connect. The referee looks concerned for him as he’s pretty much dead weight. He gets him up and tries again but Archer hits a damn F5 from out of nowhere! Kojima is still alive as he gets his foot on the rope. He nails his finisher, putting Kojima down for good.
Okay, that was miles better than I expected. Satoshi Kojima has been one of the better performers of the tournament, while Archer has also been consistently good. They told a great story of Kojima fighting through his injured shoulder and surviving a lot only for Archer to prove to be too much.
Taking a page out of Yano’s book, Shelton attacks before the bell. The fight moves out into the crowd where Benjamin leaps from a table or something and nails Yano. It sounds a lot more impressive than it looks. Once they reach the ring again, Yano turns the tide by removing a second turnbuckle pad just as Shelton charges in. Yano tries his taunt but has it interrupted twice, the second time by a superkick. After a pull of the ears, Yano finally gets in his taunt. Shelton nails a German but there’s a ref bump. Yano uses this time for a low blow and chair shot. As he lifts Shelton though, he gets a low blow too. He tries to kick back for another low blow but Shelton catches his foot in the ankle lock, which makes Yano submit.
Decent enough for the guys involved. We got Yano antics and some decent work from Benjamin. I was entertained.
Katsuyori Shibata, who has a forfeit win tonight, came out and cut a promo. I couldn’t understand it.
I’m pretty sure that this was a fresh match here, but I’m watching in 2016 and their encountered grew pretty tiresome. When you see these two on the card, you know you’re going to get hard hitting action. There’s a point where Ishii switches between chops and punches to just lay into Makabe. They get into a lariat battle that Makabe wins as Ishii crumples. Both guys are just really going to war. Ishii hits a second rope Brainbuster and they’re both down. He comes close to winning with a powerbomb as well. Time for Ishii to hammer away with forearms until Makabe catches him with a Samoan drop. As Makabe sets up for the Spider German, Ishii pretty much knocks him out with a shot. He then takes Makabe off the top and powerbombs into the corner. When that isn’t enough, they go back to trading blows. Ishii gets two on a lariat. Makabe gets two on a dragon suplex. Such good back and forth. Ishii, like a badass, kicks out of a lariat at one, which the crowd can’t believe. Makabe finally puts down his future rival with the King Kong Knee Drop.
These two would go on to have many matches. Some great and some not so much. This was one of their better outings. It was just about the right length, had the right amount of near falls and was so hard hitting. Makabe was a former IWGP Champion, while Ishii hadn’t accomplished much, but you bought into the possibility of Ishii getting another upset.
For some reason, they crawl to each other after the match and trade forearms again. Makabe knocks Ishii down and out.
This certainly screams interesting matchup to me. Wisely, Minoru moves things to the mat, trying to ground the high flyer. Ibushi hits the first big move, connecting on a dropkick for one. Things move to the top rope where Suzuki catches Ibushi’s leg in a sick looking single leg crab. Extra props to Minoru for the look of pure joy on his face as he inflicted this pain. Suzuki gains control, working over Ibushi in and out of the ring. His focus is now on the leg, wrenching and twisting it in painful looking ways. Ibushi finds himself in trouble until he can snap off a rana. He then does his signature moonsault to the outside, only remembering to sell the leg way after. Inside, he continues to not do that. Suzuki kicks the shit out of him a bit. They both eventually miss a kick and Ibushi hits a standing corkscrew moonsault for two. Suzuki tries to teach Ibushi with a lesson with slaps, but Ibushi dishes it right back. That’s one of my favorite things about him. He can hit hard with the best of them. The high risk doesn’t pay off when Ibushi misses the Phoenix Splash. Another exchange of blows highlights the next few minutes before Suzuki applies the sleeper. Kota nearly escapes but Suzuki holds on tight. The Gotch style piledriver keeps him down.
Two of my favorite guys in Japan just going at it. I really enjoyed that and, with more selling of the leg from Ibushi, this could have been a classic. It’s still great though and another strong match on this show.
Honestly, this is now two straight matchups that I’ve never seen before, but certainly intrigue me. Naito in a battle for the bottom of the block with 6 points, while Nakamura is in first with ten. They start with a feeling out process. Naito pulls a Nakamura by arrogantly kicking away at Shinsuke. Nakamura turns it around and its some knee strikes on the apron. Nakamura, the reigning IC Champion, now holds serve in the ring. Naito tries to get aggressive but Nakamura shows him why he’s the “King of Strong Style” and beats his ass. Naito is still able to start a comeback. He hits a front flip senton on Nakamura for two, followed by his trademark corner dropkick. Nakamura hits a big suplex but misses Boma Ye. He does nail a second rope knee and tries for Boma Ye again. Naito is ready and rolls him into a victory roll for two. Like most of Naito’s losses, he misses the Phoenix Splash, opening the door for a second middle rope knee from Nakamura. Nakamura starts to lay in big kicks but misses one. Naito gets him in a big rollup for two, which Nakamura kicks out of and right into a backstabber. Naito avoids a big shot and gets a bridging German for two. He keeps his grip, hitting a tiger suplex for two and still keeps his grip, turning it into a. He goes up and nails Stardust Press for the win.
Considering Naito’s place in the standings, he desperately needed a win here and he wrestled just like that. Nakamura wore down his ribs throughout, but Naito was ready at every turn to avoid the fatal Boma Ye. He finally won in dramatic fashion and it felt earned.
The stakes are high as the two top guys in New Japan face off and with a loss, either guy would be eliminated from winning their block. These two have traded the IWGP Heavyweight Title for a little over a year at this point. Their feeling out process is fun since they know each other so well. It’s great watching them try to outmaneuver the other with something that they haven’t brought to the table yet. Okada grabs the first real advantage, hitting a rope hung DDT in the corner. He comes close to a countout victory, which he would love to take. Okada wears down Tanahashi in the ring. It’s as if Okada, who just won the belt from Tanahashi a few months earlier, has Tanahashi’s number. Ever resilient, Tanahashi starts a rally and connects on High Fly Flow to the outside. He mercilessly goes after Okada’s leg, hitting a dragon screw and then just stomping on it relentless. They get into a battle of strikes that has the crowd on the edge of their seats. Okada’s arm is busted as he calls for the Rainmaker, which Tanahashi avoids. Tanahashi goes back to the leg with more dragon screws and a cloverleaf. Tanahashi does his own Rainmaker pose but Okada sends him over, where he skins the cat back in and nails slingblade. He misses High Fly Flow however. Okada tries for the tombstone but his arm gives out, so he goes with a dropkick. This time, the tombstone connects, but Tanahashi counters the Rainmaker into one of his own! Near falls from both men come as we reach a boiling point. Tanahashi hits the Styles Clash, a sign of things to come, but Okada gets his knees up on High Fly Flow. They continue to go at it and Okada scores on a dropkick. Tanahashi manages to again avoid the Rainmaker as time expires.
It’s pretty much impossible for these two to have a bad match. I’ve loved all but one of their matches and this was excellent. It did start a bit slow, but it made sense given their history. When things got going, it really was incredible. Such good and forth, with some top notch selling and great counters. Add in the drama of the clock winding down and the desperation of both men needing this win and you’ve got a classic.
Overall: A great night of pro wrestling. I can forgive the opener being dull due to the injuries and even that was better than the previous show. The rest of the card was at the very least enjoyable. Some things were fun and the rest were really good to great. Three matches come in at four stars, with Naito/Nakamura, Makabe/Ishii and Tanahashi/Okada all being excellent. Suzuki/Ibushi was very good and we got a surprisingly strong showing from Kojima and Archer. Just awesome stuff all around.
Katsuyori Shibata 10 points
Davey Boy Smith Jr. 10 points
Togi Makabe 10 points
Hiroshi Tanahashi 9 points
Kazuchika Okada 9 points
Hirooki Goto 8 points
Prince Devitt 8 points
Lance Archer 6 points
Satoshi Kojima 6 points
Tomohiro Ishii 4 points
Minoru Suzuki 10 points
Karl Anderson 10 points
Shinsuke Nakamura 10 points
Yujiro Takahashi 8 points
Tetsuya Naito 8 points
Yuji Nagata 8 points
Shelton X Benjamin 8 points
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 6 points
Kota Ibushi 6 points
Toru Yano 6 points